Gut health is an essential aspect of overall wellness. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of microbes that play a major role in our overall health. These microbes are known as gut microbiota or “gut flora,” and they help digest food, synthesize vitamins and even regulate metabolism and immunity. But what does good gut health look like? And how can you improve your gut health?
There are several ways to improve your gut health:
1. Eat foods rich in fiber
Eating fiber-rich foods is a great way to improve your gut health. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements by absorbing water in the colon, softening stools, and making them easier to pass through the intestines. Good sources include beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods high in fiber also make you feel full faster, so you’re less likely to overeat.
2. Drink lots of water
Water helps keep things moving through your body, so you’re less prone to constipation, which can cause bloating, gas, and abdominal pain, and also less prone to kidney stones or urinary tract infections. It also keeps your skin hydrated and maintains normal body temperature by acting as a transport medium for heat exchange with the environment. Drink eight glasses (about 2 liters) of water each day to keep yourself hydrated during the day. (Note that this is a basic guideline, and your actual water needs will vary based on your body weight, activity levels, environment, etc.)
3. Manage your stress levels
Stress can have a major impact on your digestive system because it affects the regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters that control your gastrointestinal function. This may lead to stomach problems like nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. Stress can also increase your risk of developing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease due to changes in immune responses in your GI tract. If you’re feeling stressed out, try taking some time out for yourself — whether it’s meditating or exercising — so you’re less likely to develop stress-related illnesses.
4. Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods like yogurt contain probiotics — beneficial bacteria that help improve digestion, boost immunity and prevent disease-causing pathogens from sticking around in your digestive tract for too long. You can get probiotics from food sources, or from supplements if you don’t like the taste of yogurt or other fermented foods such as pickles or sauerkraut. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements because they may interact with the medications you’re taking or have side effects.
5. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to improve your gut health. It helps promote a healthy digestive system and improves your mood. Exercise can also help reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. This means that you’ll be less likely to get sick and more likely to fight off any viruses or bacteria that enter your body. So the more active you are, the healthier your gut will be.
6. Reduce your sugar intake
Sugar not only contributes to weight gain but also affects how well you digest your food — especially if you eat a lot of it. Sugar feeds bad bacteria in your gut which can cause bloating, discomfort and gas. So cutting back on sugar can help promote good bacteria growth. Sugar can also cause other health issues like acne or low energy levels due to blood sugar fluctuations caused by consuming too much sugar at once.
7. Avoid processed foods
Avoiding processed foods is one of the best ways to improve your gut health. The majority of food is processed in some way, and this can harm your gut bacteria. This is because processing food strips away many of the nutrients that your body needs to function properly. Processed foods also tend to contain additives that can cause inflammation in the body — including artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, gluten, and trans fats. Instead, opt for whole food sources such as fruits or veggies whenever possible.
8. Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy gut. When you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system is weakened and cannot function properly. This can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infections and heal itself after an illness or injury. Sleep deprivation also increases inflammation in the body, which is bad news for anyone who already has inflammation issues in their gut from another cause. To get the most out of your sleep time, avoid caffeine late in the day and turn off all electronics before bedtime so you can relax.
A healthy gut can improve your quality of life in many ways. It helps your body digest food, absorb nutrients and fight off invaders. The better you take care of your gut, the healthier you’ll be.